The school year may be a new one, but the question is a recurring one:
Should “dated” worksheets be tossed out?
Imagine giving your adolescent students a delightful questionnaire dealing with the question: “How Romantic are You”? My students really like that sort of thing and I have been using such questionnaires for years. **
Now imagine that one of the questions asks the students to consider what they would do if their love interest was late for a date. One of the possible answers is a suggestion to look for a pay-phone and place a call.
Most of my students can’t even recall ever seeing a pay-phone. There are very few left on our streets, as far as I can tell…
Then there are personalized grammar worksheets. My colleagues and I, over the course of many years, have created quite a few grammar practice worksheets designed either to sneak in some general knowledge or to personalize the material by mentioning famous people who the students are interested in. Personalizing the material is supposed to be a good thing, right?
Will Smith no longer seems to be “the most popular actor in Hollywood”, and none of my Deaf and hard of hearing students seem to have heard of Angelina Jolie or the movie “Avatar”. A reference to President Clinton (Clinton as in Bill Clinton) could be seen as a mistake made by “an ignorant” teacher who apparently doesn’t know who won the last presidential election in the United States…
So what am I going to do?
Truly successful worksheets, like “the romance quiz”, stay in my repertoire, dated or not. When we get to the “pay-phone” part I simply ask them to imagine how long they would wait before turning to their phones. Their answer, invariably, is to send a text message the moment they arrive at the meeting point, so I just say that response correlates to the least romantic option.
Let me take a deep breath before talking about the grammar worksheets. I would like to say that I make new versions of all the dated ones so as to keep them relevant, but I don’t. It’s totally unrealistic, the workload as a teacher is heavy enough. If the worksheet is a good one, in terms of pedagogical grammar, I keep it. So I’ve lost the personalized effect, I can live with that. It’s just like another page in a grammar book. If the percentage of unfamiliar cultural references becomes an issue and a distraction for the students, I get rid of the worksheet.
What do you do?
** My students’ favorite questionnaire on the topic of romance came from this site, though many years ago: EFL4u.com